The Internet is filled with tons of great free-to-play games these days but a vehicle combat game by Piranha Games Inc. called Mechwarrior Online stands tall above the rest. It is based off the Battletech strategy game universe.
Players each pilot a single BattleMech that they outfit themselves and take into battle in two teams of 12 per side. The arenas seem large and varied, two favourites are: Polar Highlands and HPG Manifold. Polar Highlands is cool because it’s such a wide open landscape for sniping with many trench-like pathways to move into flanks. HPG Manifold is a gigantic moon base satellite that is just an awe to behold.
BattleMechs typically weigh between 20 and 100 tons, and fall into one of four weight classes: Light, Medium, Heavy, and Assault. Depending on the hardpoints available for your ‘Mech, you can equip a dazzling area of different weapons configurations and this is where MechWarrior Online really shines. Weapons are split into three major groups: Ballistic, Energy, and Missile.
Ballistic weapons deal instantaneous kinetic damage but require careful consideration due to their reliance on ammunition. Energy weapons consume no ammo but generate significant heat that must be monitored to prevent overheating. Missiles come in both long and short-range variants, and are capable of striking out-of-sight targets with targeting support provided from friendly units.
Battling 12 other ‘Mechs is difficult as is but there is also an internal battle going on at all times with your heat level — when weapon systems run too hot you run the risk of shutting down or even completely detonating. Some trick builds equip the largest alpha damage into one giant blast and it’s very satisfying to just launch incredible damage at an arm and watch it explode right off, or one-shotting an enemy ‘Mech outright.
If any of this piques your interest check out TheB33f on YouTube, he specializes in total ‘Mech destruction — the enemy and himself. Sidenote: I’m proud to say that during this review of MWO I was killed in one alpha strike by TheB33f, maybe it will make a replay highlight.
In the current meta the strongest builds are Laser Vomit and Dakka. I personally prefer auto-cannons and there are two Battlemech’s that really take advantage of the four ballistic hard points required to pull it off.
The Warhammer Black Widow is a heavy Hero ‘Mech that costs real world dollars (approimately $50) but it can equip two AC/5’s and two Ultra AC/5’s. What this translates into is standing and blasting enemy face for about 30 seconds straight until heat becomes a serious issue. It’s basically like peeing lava on someone. The Kodiak is a 100 ton assault ‘Mech that can run a similar but much heavier setup and is a real ‘blast’ to play.
Just because light ‘Mechs are small doesn’t mean that aren’t enjoyable to pilot. Scouting and ECM electronics warfare is also an integral part of the game. In the final minutes when only a few ‘Mechs remaining a single light can dance around the enemy and do precision work with light lasers and machine guns. It’s a spectacle.
MWO has been available since 2013 but recent patches have brought more game modes, and a new skill tree system online. The graphics and sound are both incredible and top-notch and PGI really takes advantage of the CryEngine. From my extensive 1000 hour review I have discovered a small handful of problems with the game. Alas.
- Unstable servers are prone to disconnecting you or not working 100 per cent of the time.
- The lack of melee is very frustrating. Why can’t a 100 tonne ‘Mech just punt a light ‘Mech like a football? ‘Mechs with hand actuators should be able to punch or wield axes and stuff
- Intimidating complexity makes this game mostly for ‘nerds or people with patience.